Blair in talks for future of EU constitution

Tony Blair is to meet with Polish leaders today for talks which are set to be dominated by the EU constitution.

Both the UK and Poland argue the expanded EU can work effectively without a comprehensive constitution and argue instead for modifying existing treaties.

Mr Blair is meeting with the Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and president Lech Kaczynski as part of a series of talks with European leaders ahead of the EU summit in June.

He will be attending the summit in one of his last acts as UK prime minister and is eager to reach some agreement on the future workings of the EU.

Mr Blair agrees the EU needs “more effective rules” but argues existing treaties can be amended to do this rather than replaced with a comprehensive document.

However, 17 of the 27 member states have ratified the draft constitution and argue that it is necessary to govern the expanded union.

Germany, which holds the EU presidency, has called for institutional changes by mid-2009, in time for the next European parliament election. Mr Blair met with German chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week to try and find some agreement.

The draft EU constitution was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005 and has been put on hold ever since.

The UK Independence Party have accused Mr Blair of attempting to circumnavigate a constitution because he knows he would lose the referendum needed to approve it.

Party leader Nigel Farage has demanded a referendum, arguing: “The British people have not had a say on our position in the EU for 32 years, and we must have a referendum on any treaty which transfers power away from Westminster.”

Mr Blair is also expected to discuss military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with Polish immigration to the UK.